Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Simon McBurney
Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Missions Force return in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the fifth film in a franchise which has now spanned 19 years. With a different director on each film, this instalment sees Chris McQuarrie at the helm. McQuarrie has previously worked with Tom Cruise on four occasions, including directing him in Jack Reacher and writing Edge of Tomorrow, and while he doesn’t possess the same visual flair as some who have come before him, he is the first to be sole writer and director in the series.
The CIA wants to close down the IMF, believing it to be a reckless, unaccountable division. While Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is making ground gathering information about a mysterious criminal organisation called the Syndicate, CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) isn’t buying it, convinced the Syndicate is nothing more than a paranoid delusion of the IMF. As the IMF agents are called back in and reassigned Hunt stays out in the field determined to continue his mission. Wanted by the CIA and operating without the backing and protection of the American government, Hunt is dependent on his loyal former IMF pals Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to both assist him and run interference when the CIA gets too close for comfort. The closer he gets to the Syndicate the more Hunt finds himself crossing paths with the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).With the not-so-subtle allusion in her name to the German legend of Faust, who made a pact with the devil in exchange for knowledge, she is an MI6 agent undercover with the Syndicate. But what is her true allegiance?
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation provides the globetrotting spectacle we have come to expect, spending time in England, Austria, Morocco, Malaysia and the USA. With the strength of the franchise having always been its stunts and action, McQuarrie builds his film around a series of impressive set pieces. It starts with a bang: a cold open in which Hunt hangs off the side of a plane as it takes off, waiting for Benji to remotely unlock the door for him. Because Tom Cruise does his own stunts – yes that is actually him hanging off the side of the plane – it means McQuarrie doesn’t have to cheat with the camera angles to obscure the fact that it is a stunt man, resulting in is some really great action shots. There is also an impressive free-diving sequence in which Ethan (and therefore Cruise) must hold his breath for well over three minutes, a car and motorbike chase through the streets of Casablanca, and a foot chase through London. The centrepiece of the film, though, is an assassination attempt which takes place in the Vienna Opera House during a performance of Puccini’s Turandot. Reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, the scene introduces the famous aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ into the film, which composer Joe Kraemer then weaves through the score, combining it with Lalo Schifin’s iconic Mission: Impossible theme to great effect.
But while the action is as good as we have come to expect from this franchise, unfortunately the main problems with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation are the same as those that have affected the previous four instalments, the same that have constantly kept the Mission: Impossible franchise playing second fiddle to the Bond and Bourne franchises: the characters. As a protagonist, Ethan Hunt, who in one of the film’s clunkier lines is described as “the living manifestation of destiny,” has no discernible personality. He is not a character so much as simply a catalyst for action. As a result you have no investment in him and therefore don’t care what happens. That is why despite having played him five times now, Ethan Hunt is still not the first character that comes to mind when you think of Tom Cruise.
But while Tom Cruise is just being Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg is just being Simon Pegg and Alec Baldwin is just being Alec Baldwin, Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson makes a real impression as Ilsa Faust. For the second time this year, after Charlize Theron’s turn in Mad Max: Fury Road, a male protagonist in a major blockbuster has been overshadowed by his female co-star. Ferguson is both the find and the star of Rogue Nation, kicking some serious butt as the mysterious double agent and putting in one of the great Bond girl performances despite not being in a Bond film.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is one of the better movies in the series and shows that there is life left in the franchise as long as the 53 year old cruise is physically up to the task. It is hard to fault as instant gratification, as pure escapist entertainment, but it lacks the substance to suggest that it will be any more memorable than the four preceding films in the series.
Review by Duncan McLean
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